Sie treiben nicht nur Vertriebsingenieuren und technischen Beratern die Sorgenfalten auf die Stirn: die Lieferketten – eine never-ending Story?
2020, Corona, Lockdown in Asia, containers are stuck in China’s major transshipment ports. The already strained supply chain problem is intensifying. Declining demand from Europe, especially for electronic components, at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 causes global production to slow down. In 2021, there are initial hopes of a recovery, demand increases, the economy grows again, but the supply of raw materials and parts falters again and more severely than before. At the end of March, the cargo ship Ever Given is stuck in the Suez Canal – like a symbol for world trade. Shipping transit times are lengthening, and a shortage of shipping containers and pallets is exacerbating the symptoms. As if that were not enough, sea freight prices have risen about fivefold since Corona.
Parts shortage in electrical engineering
More Corona waves follow, bottlenecks in the labor market, supply chains break down. Since the end of February 2022, Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine has turned the entire political and economic world order upside down. Uncertainties and fear on the one hand, energy costs going through the roof, general inflation in purchasing, a further aggravation of the freight problem and a difficult to incalculable view of the future on the other. Raw materials and components continue to be in short supply: Alongside various other sectors, electrical engineering in particular is affected, not least with passive components such as capacitors, inductive components, ferrites, protective components, transformers or resistors, but also with sensors.
How long will electronic components be missing?
Time and again, companies that assemble electronic components report that they have to cut back their production because there is simply no supply of parts. The outlook is rather bleak. Experts like Frank Sobotka, Managing Director of the transport and logistics company DSV Air & Sea Deutschland, do not expect the situation to ease in 2022. In his opinion, improvements are conceivable for 2023 at the earliest. Namely, when free capacities for sea transport would emerge or companies would have set up their supply chains more locally. (1) Meanwhile, war and port closures are leading to longer transport times. Delays and high freight prices are keeping global trade much longer than originally expected at the beginning of the year.
Electrical industry particularly affected
Sobotka’s restrictions make it clear that there is by no means an all-clear even for 2023: the renewed lockdowns in China since the beginning of the year, the war in Ukraine and Russia, which has become unpredictable. Restricted logistics, production in Ukraine as well as in China are partially or completely at a standstill or are only able to act to a limited extent. The effects are of course also being felt in Germany, with supply bottlenecks coming to a head. According to the ifo Institute, the situation worsened again for the German economy in March 2022, with 80.2% of companies having to contend with bottlenecks and problems in materials procurement, i.e. for intermediate products or raw materials (74.6% in the previous month of February). In the electrical industry, around 90% reported supply problems. Companies also cite the stalled trade with Russia and Ukraine as a direct result of the war as a reason. (2) They face the challenge of reorganizing or rebuilding their supply chains. An opportunity, in the medium and long term. A disaster in the short term. Similarly, in March, the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) reported “additional supply chain and logistics disruptions as a result of the war” for nearly 2/3 of companies. (3)
Finding solutions: Listening. Thinking. Thinking along.
Even though the mood of the German economy has stabilized at a low level according to the latest figures on the ifo Business Climate Index from the end of April 2022, expectations remain subdued. The assessment of the current situation in the manufacturing sector, i.e. the electrical industry among others, even lingers below average. (4) Finding and procuring components continues to be a problem in the electrical engineering/electrical industry. Companies are called upon to find solutions. In the medium and long term, in order not to be thwarted again or to a lesser extent in the future by delays or the breakdown of supply chains. In the short term, to ensure their continued existence and safeguard jobs and their own existence. Companies should therefore not be looking for pure customer or supplier relationships right now, but rather for partners who can take the pressure off them, support their business and move into the future together with them. Who listen, think, think along.
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